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help with riding the large and lazy horse!

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  • help with riding the large and lazy horse!

    I've been riding a percheron/thoroughbred mare for about seven months now, and she's nothing like any other horse I've been on. She's a challenge because she is so big and lazy and I constantly fight with her to do even the simplest things

    number one, she's a horrible turner. Yes I understand she is big and cannot make sharp turns that well, but even just turning a corner requires my whole body to help and it makes a minimal effect.

    number two, she falls to the inside no matter how much leg, spur, and rein i apply to drive her straight. This might seem weird, but I am 16 years old and 5'10 with the longest legs imaginable but I have no muscle to me, and my leg doesn't help when I try to push her out.

    number three, she is CONSTANTLY pulling on my hands and pulling down. I try to get her on her rear, but it just ends up in a huge fight between us. And what makes this situation worse? my trainer puts a neck stretcher on her.

    and last but not least, number four: I cannot sit her canter, no matter how much i attempt to. It's like when ever I try to sit, my leg scrunches up and my heel comes up and it's just a mess. I always end up going into half seat (which is how i was originally taught to canter or hack a horse out) and my new trainer seems to protest that.

    I'm sorry this is long, but I'm just frustrated and I want some help. If anyone has any answers they would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

  • #2
    You don't mention anywhere, but I'm going to guess this is not a particularly high-headed mare. The way you describe her, it sounds like she's too low, much too heavy on the forehand, and overly reliant upon the inside rein. (I'm not sure how the neck stretchy would help your situation?) If this is the case, I would work on bringing her UP, off the forehand and onto her haunches. How are you asking for your turns? Are you using primarily inside leg and outside rein - if not that could likely be one of your problems. For the canter, it could be that the horse is just too disconnected for you to easily sit to at this point in time. I would suggest you work on sitting the canter so that you can use your seat as an active aid to drive her forward propelling from her hind end. The more you work on it, the easier it will get and the better her canter should become. You can always try dropping your stirrups at the canter to help your body find its center of balance.


    • #3
      Carry a whip or dressage whip. You can't do anything about her pulling until you get her active off your leg. A neck stretcher will do exactly nothing.

      Go back to basics. Simple transitions. Ask for a trot with normal aids, no response? Kick. No response? Use your crop, with meaning, behind the leg. Repeat as needed. Don't nag- constantly nagging with the leg gets you tuned out. Lots and lots of transitions between gaits and in gaits- fast trot/slow trot/slow canter/fast canter. If it takes more than a normal amount of leg, use your whip.

      The crop is an amazing tool. My mare can be horribly lazy, but a serious pop or two with my crop at the beginning of the ride gets her motivated in a way that all the spurring and kicking won't.

      When they are behind your leg- straight and turning is hard. Once they are listening and with you, you'll find all that gets easier and once you aren't needing to constantly use leg, your seat at the canter will improve.


      • #4
        Magnolia gave really excellent advice, particularly about doing a million transitions. Get the horse really listening to you.

        The only thing I'll add is to refuse to give up your position or your expectation about response to aids when on a lazy horse. Translation: use a light leg and a soft hand. Do not get suckered into kicking or pulling.

        So you ask the horse to go forward with a light squeeze from your leg. Horse ignores you. You *immediately* correct that (non) response with your stick - hard enough to get a BIG reaction. If you swat her with the stick and she just goes forward as much as you originally wanted, you were not effective. You want an over-reaction from the stick - the horse needs to run forward. Then you execute a downward transition and try again, asking for the forward gait with a soft leg.

        The same thing applies for your hand. Do not pull against a feel you don't like. Keep a soft feel and ask for a downward transition by softly closing your fingers. If the horse ignores you, bend your elbows, raise your hands a bit and STOP, then back her. Do it unemotionally but be firm. Then go forward again, close your fingers and evaluate the response.

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

        It does work, but you have to be really consistent and you have to make sure you are asking the horse for things that she physically CAN do. A lot of heavy horses are built a bit downhill, which doesn't help them SIT with the hind legs and balance the way we like for hunters and jumpers. You can improve balance and agility to an extent, but if the horse is conformationally challenged, then there may be limits to how agile you are going to get her. Any horse, however, can be taught to be obedient to the aids, and that is where I would start with this one.
        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Lucassb View Post
          Magnolia gave really excellent advice, particularly about doing a million transitions. Get the horse really listening to you.

          The only thing I'll add is to refuse to give up your position or your expectation about response to aids when on a lazy horse. Translation: use a light leg and a soft hand. Do not get suckered into kicking or pulling.

          So you ask the horse to go forward with a light squeeze from your leg. Horse ignores you. You *immediately* correct that (non) response with your stick - hard enough to get a BIG reaction. If you swat her with the stick and she just goes forward as much as you originally wanted, you were not effective. You want an over-reaction from the stick - the horse needs to run forward. Then you execute a downward transition and try again, asking for the forward gait with a soft leg.
          Totally agree. This horse is MORE than behind your leg. She is blowing you off completely - which is TOTALLy unacceptable. The past two posts are great advice.

          Yep it's painful (I mean WHO wants to feel like beating their horse?!) - but unfortunately very necessary to produce a good horse. And you don't need to be going around the ring huffing and puffing.

          Another thing to think about: with a lazy horse you're actually going to use LESS leg than you would for an anxious/nervous horse.

          Good luck!


          • #6
            I'd ask if you can take the neck stretcher off too... unless the trainer has a very specific reason (but I can't think of one in this situation), take it off. If she's already heavy and low in the front, there's no need to encourage that.
            Different flavors of crazy, but totally NUTS. You know its true. - GreyHunterHorse



            • #7
              You have much better advice here than I could give, but I wanted to add something my first reriding instructor told me, which is that draft horses were bred to pull and are happy to do it - you must resist the temptation.
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
              Incredible Invisible


              • #8
                Originally posted by Lucassb View Post

                So you ask the horse to go forward with a light squeeze from your leg. Horse ignores you. You *immediately* correct that (non) response with your stick - hard enough to get a BIG reaction. If you swat her with the stick and she just goes forward as much as you originally wanted, you were not effective. You want an over-reaction from the stick - the horse needs to run forward. Then you execute a downward transition and try again, asking for the forward gait with a soft leg.
                Completely agree. My trainer always tells me to use my stick with the intention of not having to use it ever again and sometimes the best way to do that is with a big whack.


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you all so much! I hope and think this is really going to help!

                  Keep the replies coming!


                  • #10
                    Philosophical sea change

                    The quickest, most effective solution is some help (and explanation) from someone who makes western horses-- either reiners or pleasure horses.

                    These horses are broke-- meaning they are waiting to be told something to do-- and light to hand, leg (and sometimes seat).

                    People who make up these kinds of horses do a stronger and more direct version of what other posters have said. You work on the leg problem first, ask once lightly and then back that up with a response so strong she has to move. Too much forward is fine. Fixing the hand problem is second and harder in part because she has to bulld the strength to be able to respond to what you ask with the bit.

                    The western folks tend to do more with moving young horses sideways and turns on the haunches and forehand than we do. For heavy and unresponsive horses, this technique can just what you need.

                    Life is too short to ride a horse that makes you beg.... and each time you do resort to nagging, your big mare learns that her "make me" approach to life is good enough. To me, the western commitment to making up a horse who says "Yessir, right away sir, lemme know when you want something different, sir" is valuable.
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat


                    • #11
                      It is my belief that "lazy" is a habit trained by riders, not a trait. Riders accidentally train "lazy" when they don't always insist on a prompt response and the horse learns the one application of the aids doesn't mean anything. That's expectations created by the rider, not horse attitude. If you are thinking "but I did/do insist ... " then turn up the volume of that insistence to whatever it has to be. She hasn't yet heard from you in a way she understands.

                      It sounds like your horse needs a rider with the physical strength to maintain a strong, assertive ride throughout. I'd suggest the rider's frame of mind must always be "I don't take 'no' for an answer." She's learned she can wear a rider down. To turn the tables the rider will have to be tougher than she is, and in her case that's a very tough-minded rider. She is just a whole lot of work to ride, but it doesn't sound like she's mean or "bad," this is just what her own experience has taught her. She isn't hearing what riders think they are telling her. You'll become a very strong rider when you can be effective on this one, and that is her gift to you.

                      My experience is that you can't let your hands be dragged down beside the withers. Although it feels like when your hands are where they belong she's dropping out from under you, correct that with leg, backed up with whip taps and spur, applied very promptly. Whatever it takes to make her do what you are asking, make her come to you, don't let her make you come to her instead.

                      number three, she is CONSTANTLY pulling on my hands and pulling down.
                      My horse does this. Remembering that the majority of a horse's weight is in their front end, those with more solid shoulders learn to use their shoulders and lower neck to muscle their way through life. I'll guess that on the ground she pushes on people with her front end. (And if so you should put a stop to it, poke her with the end of a crop or sweatscraper.)

                      Under saddle she is pulling your whole body more forward than you should be - she maneuvers you into her way of going. The advantage to her is that with her heavy front end she's taking more control of the ride. It's hard, but you have to do the work to hold your position. On top of all the other work you are doing to get her in gear. She's a very physical ride, but she'll help a rider become strong as well.

                      What she is not doing is lifting her shoulders, and that also impedes her maneuverability and ratability generally. My trainer gave me an exercise - spiral in to small canter circles, a few times around and out again. Rider position and hands is everything to make this work, and a proper circle not dropping the outside shoulder is essential. Rider does not let their body get too forward as the horse will try to get them to do. Hands must stay above the withers, kick to keep her from dragging your hands down. Maintain a stiff outside rein and strong outside leg to keep the outside shoulder aligned. But softer inside rein, do not hold her up with the reins. Strong leg aids (kick like hell if necessary to keep her cantering.) She has to pick up her own shoulders or she'll fall. And she won't fall if you don't worry about the possibility, she'll do what she has to do to keep going - and that is the self-carriage you want. She won't look so downhill while she's cantering her small circle properly.

                      Coming out of the spiral/turn onto the straight you hold all your aids together and keep her going as she was going in the spiral. Do not ever hold her up with the reins. Get her back end going and keep your body position where it should be, circle again if you're loosing the frame, apply everything it takes to make her keep going. Don't forget, until she develops her way of going, this is hard for her, too! When you get something good, then she has really given alot of herself and deserves abundant, lavish praise.

                      If you can't tell, I have been there done that! It is hard, hard work ... but it's wonderful when your horse says "oh! that's what you wanted! ok!"

                      This takes a lot of strength in her back, and she'll need a chance to build up the right back muscles before too many repetitions are asked in one ride. It's not going to help if you ask more than she can physically do for you and she associates the way you want her to go with discomfort. Likely she hasn't built these particular muscles while she's been dragging riders around with her front end, however strong she is otherwise.

                      [imo - forget the neck stretcher - since I'm a stranger to you & trainer I will be the one to say forget the trainer as well ]